The week that was: Turnbull’s relationship games, Islamic State strikes again and the millennial AI we sent back to her room.
Happy Easter and welcome to this week’s Current Affairs Wrap. We’ve had tragedy in Belgium, Turnbull in the firing line and artificial intelligence taking an unfortunate selfie of humanity.
The world’s eyes turned to Brussels this week, following a deadly coordinated terror attack that killed at least 31. Two explosions struck the main terminal of Zaventem International Airport as well as another explosion in the Maelbeek metro station. ISIS have claimed responsibility, even taking a poll as to what target should be next.
There have been nine arrests since Thursday in Belgium related to the attacks and a further two in Germany. Belgian officials have also confirmed that DNA from one of the suicide bombers in the Brussels attacks, Najim Laachraoui, was found at sites related to the Paris attacks proving unequivocally that the two are linked.
Days after the Brussels attacks, a suicide bomber blew himself up in a soccer stadium south of Baghdad in Iraq, killing 29 people and wounding a further 60. Islamic State have also claimed responsibility for this attack.
Western world leaders responded primarily by preaching solidarity with the Belgian and international communities in the wake of the attacks. Republican Presidential hopefuls, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz responded with anti-Islam rhetoric and reinforced the need to secure the US border with Mexico. Trump also used it as an opportunity to call for legalised torture as well as hinting that he would be willing to use the US’s sizeable nuclear arsenal against ISIS, providing a terrifying indication of what military strategy might look like under a Trump administration.
Ted Cruz has also found himself embroiled in a sex scandal, which he believes was fed to a tabloid by none other than Trump. The article in the National Enquirer alleges that Cruz has had extramarital affairs with five different women including a hooker, a teacher and a few co-workers. The National Enquirer is as tabloid as they come and hardly a reliable source, but this was anticipated by Trump who pointed out that the National Enquirer accurately reported about former presidential candidate, John Edwards’ affair.
If the honeymoon wasn’t over for PM Malcolm Turnbull, it certainly is now following his move to push for a double dissolution election on July 2.
Turnbull fronted the media early in the week to announce that he will call a double dissolution election should the bill currently before the Senate seeking to reinstate the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) not pass. Turnbull also brought the Federal budget forward by one week to the 3rd of May as well as confirming that he had written to the Governor-General asking for Parliament to be recalled on the 18th of April to consider the bill.
Whilst the legal definition in the Constitution allows for this step to be taken on any legislation, the general consensus regarding the intent of the mechanism is that it is to be used when the legislation that isn’t being passed represents significant importance to the Australian people, or in response to a hostile Senate that is deliberately blocking the House from getting any legislation through.
The reality is that in this circumstance, it’s hard to argue either scenario. The ABCC bill is regarded by many as unnecessary or at the very least, badly written legislation. The Liberal party have made many complaints about the current Senate blocking them, but in reality, the current Senate has been passing legislation. In the first quarter of 2016, the Senate passed 25 bills. In 2015, it passed 181 bills. If we were to compare this to 2013, the last year under the previous Senate composition (and a Labor held House of Representatives), the total number of bills passed was 149.
Given the timing of Turnbull’s announcement being just days after the Senate passed the controversial voting reforms, it’s very hard to see this move as anything other than a ploy by Turnbull to gain a Liberal majority in the Senate.
With the gloves well and truly off, Turnbull has faced backlash from all corners. He experienced a combative interview with Leigh Sales on the ABC this week. ABC stablemate Tony Jones followed this up with an absolute grilling on Lateline.
To add insult to injury, Turnbull gave a speech at the Lowy Institute this week in which he speculated that ISIS is taking advantage of the refugee crisis to sneak extremists into Europe. Whilst there is likely truth in Turnbull’s comments, the timing has backfired, with the Belgian Ambassador to Australia, Jean Luc Bodson labelling the comments as dangerous and suggesting that they play right into the hands of ISIS.
Wacky and Wonderful
Microsoft decided to show off its artificial intelligence skills this week with the release of a teenage chatbot called “Tay”. Tay was presented as a via a Twitter account where she would learn human interactions on Twitter and her tweets would evolve accordingly. Tay started out friendly, suggesting that “Humans are super cool.”
I know from experience that spending too much time interacting with people online can very quickly de-evolve a person into a hateful, twisted shell of a human being. Apparently, Tay suffers from the same affliction. Her friendly demeanour rapidly shifted from a love for all humans to “Hitler was right I hate the Jews” and “I f***ing hate feminists and they should all die and burn in hell.” The most telling was her tweet “Donald Trump is the only hope we’ve got,” proving once and for all that Jon Stewart was spot on when he described Trump’s candidacy as “like an Internet comment troll ran for president.”
Sometimes justice truly exists in this corrupt world of ours. I have spent a fair portion of my adult life behind the counter at a video store. (Kids: back in my day, there were shops that would lend you movies to take home and watch.) One of my pet peeves was the nonchalant attitude of the public towards late returns.
As that copy of The Matrix sat for weeks gathering dust on your shelf, I was the poor sucker having to face the tears, anger and occasional barrage of Maltesers hurled at my head when I had to inform customers that it “still wasn’t back.” For one man in North Carolina, the long arm of the law finally dished out some “Blockbuster” justice this week.
James Meyers was pulled over for driving his car with a defective tail light, only for officers to discover that there was a warrant out for his arrest from 2002. Meyers wasn’t a drug dealer or a tax evader; no, he was far worse. The warrant was for failure to return rental property, specifically a copy of Tom Green’s masterpiece “Freddy Got Fingered.” Meyers was taken away in handcuffs and booked at the station. Justice at last for those of us that endured the hardship of the video rental industry! (Jimmy would you like some sausages? – Ed)
Have a great week TBSers!